The science behind sex is notoriously complex — while some of the more basic physical aspects, such as blood flow, are relatively straightforward, other factors, such as hormones, arousal, and libido are way more complicated. That’s because when and how we feel turned on is largely dependent on part of the body that we hardly ever equate with sexual health: the gut.

Not only does good gut health decrease mood killers like bloating, gas, and indigestion, but gut bacteria are responsible for producing hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters that are essential for sexual health.

Here’s why a healthy gut is critical to quality orgasms.


The gut acts as a ‘second brain’

The digestive system is often referred to as a ‘second brain’ because of how significantly the extensive network of neurons lining the gut affects our emotional and mental state. Yes, you read that right: our emotions are influenced by the nerves in our gut. And because emotions and mental state play a huge role in libido, a healthy gut is essential to a healthy sex life. The network of nerves lining the gut, known as the enteric nervous system, allows the gut and brain to communicate. You know the phrase “butterflies in the stomach”? Those signals in the gut are part of our physiological stress response — when we are in a situation that makes us feel nervous, anxious, or excited, these “gut feelings” respond intuitively before the brain even senses that something is up. 

The gut and brain are intimately connected

Listening to your gut is more than just a metaphor: we may think that our brain tells our body what to do, but it is actually the gut that communicates with the brain. About 90% of the fibers in the primary visceral nerve, the vagus, carry information from the gut to the brain, not the other way around. While hormones and neurotransmitters travel between these two brains, some of the most important ones originate in the gut, including the vast majority of the body’s serotonin. Gamma-Aminobutyric acid, which controls feelings of fear and anxiety, is also produced in the gut, and can act as a major sexual brake.

Gut health leads to orgasms — and vice versa 

If something goes wrong in the gut, the whole body knows about it. For example, some of the hormones needed to regulate blood sugar are contained in the gut, and if it isn’t functioning properly, insulin levels will spike, impacting the reproductive hormones needed for the body’s sexual functions. Additionally, if the gut isn’t healthy, excess hormones get backed up and eventually recycled around the body, which can lead to estrogen dominance in people with vaginas, causing heavier periods, weight gain, and breast pain. While a healthy gut leads to a better sex life, more orgasms also lead to a healthier gut. When you climax, circulation increases, which helps distribute nutrients and hormones where they are needed. Also, the oxytocin released during orgasm has the equivalent effect of eating a superfood — oxytocin receptors in the gut help counteract inflammation. 


The gut produces most of the body’s serotonin

About 85-90% of serotonin in the body is produced by gut bacteria. You may know that serotonin plays a major role in mental health, but it also regulates bowel movements and nausea, as well as contributing to sexual functioning. Serotonin helps regulate blood pressure, directing flow to the genitals in order to stimulate and generate arousal. It also helps genital muscles contract and genital nerves function. Generally, high levels of serotonin inhibit sexual behavior, which is why antidepressants which increase serotonin can reduce libido. A gut that produces varying levels of serotonin may be responsible for unexplained mood and libido changes. A healthy digestive system is crucial to creating serotonin, and therefore maintaining a stable libido. 

How diet can improve gut health 

A healthy gut not only keeps digestion and metabolism running smoothly, but also contributes to better emotional and mental health, as well as sexual functioning. So it’s not so much that “you are what you eat,” but rather, you feel how you eat. While there isn’t one miracle food that will drastically improve gut health, a diet that covers all the nutritional bases will keep your gut happy. A balanced combination of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and carbs (whole, not refined) will help regulate hormones, balance your moods, boost energy levels, and even improve blood flow to your genitals. Sugars and processed foods are known to aggravate the gut, while fiber helps get rid of excess hormones. While you may have heard that some foods have aphrodisiac qualities, the effects are so minute that when it comes to your gut, it’s better to go for options that enhance overall nutrition.

/Shutterstock